By Robert Common, Managing Partner, The Beekeeper
The ongoing global pandemic has resulted in big and unexpected lifestyle changes for many of us. Varying degrees of uncertainty are causing unusually high levels of stress for some; it’s understandable that even the most relaxed of people are feeling overwhelmed during these unprecedented times. Recent reports show that global levels of mental health issues have increased four-fold in the last year1,2.
This growth in mental health issues has made it clear that finding activities for promoting our mental wellbeing is incredibly important. Given that many parts of the world have stay-at-home measures in place, and many of us are staying inside, here we are suggesting activities for improving mental health that can be done at home.
Mindfulness practices teach you to refocus your mind on the present moment, rather than on thoughts or circumstances are currently causing you to feel stressed3.4. In times of stress our go-to response tends to be anxiety about the future. Rather than fixating on these feelings, mindfulness practices will allow you to learn more about yourself and discover what you need in order to feel emotionally balanced. Some mindfulness practices to do at home include:
- Meditative breathing exercises: One way to relieve anxiety in the moment is to pay attention to your breathing patterns5. Become more in touch with your feelings by regulating your breaths, and through doing this, remove thoughts of your stressors.
- Be intentional about maintaining relationships: another way to use mindfulness practices is to be mindful about your actions. Physical distancing and quarantining can put a strain on relationships and bring on feelings of loneliness, which negatively impact mental health. To combat this, mindfully think about what actions you can take to maintain your relationships and improve your mental wellbeing.
- Focus on what you can control: so many things in our lives have been upended by the pandemic, causing a lot of uncertainty-driven negative emotions. Try being mindful about what stressors are not in your control. Instead of focusing on them, focus on what issues are in your control, focus on improving them, and finally, mindfully attend to the calm that brings you.
Create a new routine
Good mental health in many ways relies on structure and keeping a regular routine. The ongoing pandemic and having to stay in our homes longer than typical has made it difficult for many of us to maintain this structure.
Adopting new routines at home can be an amazing tool for finding a new normal. For example, try setting strict work hours with scheduled breaks, create a schedule for exercising or going for a walk a few times a week, wake up thirty minutes early to meditate or pray, or go to bed thirty minutes earlier than usual to get your day off to a good start. Be honest with yourself about what you need and incorporate those needs into your new routine.
Low-impact yoga or stretches for relieving tightness and stress in the body
Yoga and other stretching exercises are known for their ability to improve mental health6, and some studies done in the last year have reported that these exercises have had particularly beneficial effects on mental wellbeing during the Covid-19 pandemic7. Many yoga exercises are low-impact and do not cause much physical exertion, meaning that although this pandemic may have you drained, incorporating yoga can relieve this feeling without taking up too much of your energy.
Exercise in general can be a healthy form of distraction from stressful situations, which can improve overall mental wellbeing. Taking care of your body will be just as important as taking care of your mind while maintaining your mental health during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Our mind and body work as one – if one is off, the other can struggle, resulting in a continued state of anxiety and stress.
Be kind to yourself
Practicing self-compassion has become especially important during these stressful times. Be nice to yourself; extend to yourself the same amount of kindness and care that you would give to someone else you love or care about, like a friend or a loved one.
For some of us, self-compassion may not come naturally; it is normal to feel a little guilt or put other negative emotions on yourself when things are not going as expected. Try to let go of the desire to burden yourself with those feelings and instead try rewarding yourself for managing everything that you are doing throughout these stressful times. Try this, and you may well begin to notice an improvement in your mental wellbeing.
The Implications of COVID-19 for Mental Health and Substance Use